Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIII
THE LAST BATTLE

Until a very recent period--certainly, I think, until within the last sixty years, until the epoch of the first Reform Act, the question between Great Britain and Ireland was a question between a nation and a class, or rather between a class and a nation; because I do not think that, except in a very limited sense indeed, we could call this country substantially a self- governing country until the period of the first Reform Act. During all the previous long, weary, deplorable centuries the question was, in the main, between a governing class on one side of the Channel and a nation on the other side. Sir, it is not so now. It is now a question between a nation and a nation. If there is, as we believe that there is, injustice in the present legislative relations between England and Ireland, and if that injustice be deliberately accepted and prolonged, it will not be inflicted by a class upon a nation, not by an aristocracy, not by a body of landed proprietors, not by a body of merchants and manufacturers, not by the property of the country, but by the people of the country. It has now become--and it appears to me a consideration of extreme importance--it has now become a question, in the strictest sense, between a nation and a nation, and not only between a nation and a nation, but between a great nation and a small nation, between a strong nation and a weak nation, between a wealthy nation and a poor nation. There can be no more melancholy and, in the last result, no more degrading spectacle upon earth than the spectacle of oppression, or of wrong in whatever form, inflicted by the deliberate act of a nation upon another nation, especially by the deliberate act of such a country as Great Britain upon such a country as Ireland. But, on the other hand, there can be no nobler spectacle than that which we think is now dawning upon us, the spectacle of a nation deliberately set on the removal of injustice, deliberately determined to break--not through terror and not in haste, but

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